FERS on the chopping block: Crying wolf or sounding the alarm?

Nobody likes bad news, except maybe much of the media, lobbyists seeking work and people with political agendas. Come to think of it that describes many in the D.C. Beltway. But a couple of miles away in the real world, bad news is really bad news.

But the reality is that bad things — real, imagined and pending — happen all the time. And these times generally get more eyes and ears than the good stuff.

It’s been maybe a decade or more since federal workers and retirees have gotten any “yahoo”-inducing good news out of the White House or Congress. Former President Barack Obama was friendly to civil servants and said he wanted to make government “cool again.” And it was, except for sequestration, furloughs, shutdowns and three years of frozen federal pay. Imagine if he hadn’t had their best interests at heart — that could have been a real rough patch.

President Donald Trump is keeping his promises to ” drain the swamp” with a crackdown on federal unions, and aims to make the federal retirement plan more costly for workers and less valuable for retirees.

He also envisions a pay freeze and more privatization of government functions.

A column last week about an updated set of White House proposed cuts to the Federal Employees Retirement System prompted one reader, Michael G. to urge me to knock it off and lose the cloudy crystal ball.

“You know, if you would stop, or at least limit your predictions of all things that you ‘think’ may happen with the retirement systems, you could provide us with other actual events and occurrences that are factually known and documented to happen … Your uncanny ability to make a living out of speculation is getting rather annoying.”

What we try to do at Federal News Radio is tell you what “could” happen, rather than wait until changes occur. That’s a big difference.

But I asked readers if tracking threats to the federal benefits package — which pop up every year — was TMI (too much information) or GMM (give me more). Here’s how a few more of them responded:

  • “Hello Mike, my vote is JAR (just about right). Your coverage of threats to FERS and threats to federal employees in general is JAR. Although all the negatives being reported can bring people down, it is not your fault that there aren’t any good things to report about when it comes to the current treatment of federal employees.” — Rob Manning, chapter president, National Treasury Employees Union, Chapter 87, IRS West Central Florida
  • “Mike, for me it’s definitely GMM, as in give me more. I rely on Federal News Radio to keep me informed about all the possibilities, the what ifs, etc. The more I know, the better prepared I am to deal with the future. Thanks for everything you do.”  — David Janott of Chico, California

And last but definitely not least, this one:

  • ”Evidently, Michael G. doesn’t want to know the bridge is out until he falls in the water. Keep it up. I know that what often happens to one can very soon happen to others.” — Joseph Causey in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

What are the odds someone with the same name living in the same town as my brother?

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Amelia Brust

In Japan, if someone commits suicide by jumping in front of a train, the train company can sue the victim’s family for clean-up fees and from the negative publicity. The costs have been known to range from 100 million yen to as much as 140 million yen.

Sources: Joi Ito, MIT Media Lab

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THRIFT SAVINGS PLAN TICKER

Sep 17, 2021 Close Change YTD*
L Income 23.2077 -0.0415 4.43%
L 2025 12.0240 -0.0418 8.33%
L 2030 42.5522 -0.1952 10.54%
L 2035 12.7953 -0.0643 11.50%
L 2040 48.4773 -0.2641 12.46%
L 2045 13.2947 -0.0772 13.28%
L 2050 29.1552 -0.1795 14.12%
L 2055 14.3671 -0.1053 17.18%
L 2060 14.3671 -0.1053 17.18%
L 2065 14.3671 -0.1054 17.18%
G Fund 16.6644 0.0006 0.88%
F Fund 21.0666 -0.0298 -0.55%
C Fund 66.6676 -0.6128 21.56%
S Fund 85.0861 -0.0794 16.31%
I Fund 39.4469 -0.3006 11.70%
Closing price updated at approx 6pm ET each business day. More at tsp.gov
* YTD data is updated on the last day of the month.